Power Lunch: Charlie In Charge

Over a long lunch at the Palm, Charlie Manuel lets us in on the secrets behind his strategy, how he gets millionaires to listen, and teaching Ted Williams a thing or two

SK: Have you modeled your managing approach after any other big-league managers?

CM: I played for Billy Martin with the Twins and for Walter Alston with the Dodgers, and really liked both of them. They were as different as could be. Billy was loud, fiery and in-your-face. He could get really mad. Walter didn’t say much, but he had a way about him that made you want to work harder and try to please him. They were both great baseball men. Billy was a little crazy, but he really cared about his players. Walter was a guy everyone respected, and his players knew he stood by them. That respect and loyalty is a key ingredient to success as a manager in this game. And you’ve got to talk to people. You can’t talk through coaches. I’m casual with players because I am with everyone. I just don’t know how to be any other way.

SK: Managers also have to be good with the press these days. You don’t put much stock in that part of the job, do you?

CM: I think when Dave Montgomery brought me in to interview for this job, that was probably a concern for them. It’s not what I do. I once had a PR professional try to teach me how to talk with the press. It wasn’t time well spent for her or me. The press seems to want me to say things that I don’t want to say — to criticize this player or that person. If I have a reason to criticize someone, I’ll do it my way.

SK: Montgomery represented a new generation of leadership when he replaced Bill Giles a few years back. How’s that changed things?

CM: I think they realized they had to do more to be successful. It starts with Citizens Bank Park. That place is just great, one of the best ballparks in the league. The owners and the management took a lot of risk with that decision. It’s a little like managing: You’ve got to take risks. When they pay off, you look pretty good.

SK: Are you into the other pro sports in town? Ever talk to the other coaches?

CM: I love the way the Eagles hit. They’re one tough bunch. I like and respect Andy Reid, and I try to talk to him now and then. I really like to watch Villanova basketball; they have a great style of play, and they seem to outperform what their talent suggests they might do. The truth is, though, I really like to watch baseball. When I moved to Florida after Cleveland fired me — and that really hurt — I thought I’d be happy just playin’ golf and fishin’. Didn’t really work for me. I wasn’t the retiring type. I bought the cable service that would let me watch seven or eight games every day, and I did. That’s when I knew I had to get back to baseball. I came back the next year, working in the front office for the Phillies.

SK: Have you enjoyed Philadelphia?

CM: We like the restaurants. There are a lot of good places with real good food. I especially like to take drives and see the countryside out near Reading or in Lancaster. It is really beautiful and simple. I find it peaceful.

SK: Read anything interesting of late?

CM: I read some business management books when I can. I find that the stuff business leaders have to deal with is just like the problems that face baseball managers — mostly about how to lead, motivate and get the most out of their people. I like thinking about strategy a lot, too. Though we can only make the decisions; the players have to make the plays.